Monday, November 30, 2015

Hope Endures


"God gives us two kidney's, so we can give one away." Best-selling author, Amy Clipston and her husband, Joe believed this statement to be true. Amy writes about her kidney donation in "The Gift of Love: One Woman's Journey to Save a Life." The Cliptson family went through something extraordinary, only one that the divine healer could write a prescription for, a miracle.  

In 2003, Joe began dialysis when he found out his numbers were not good.  During this time, Amy was pregnant with her second child and with much anticipation, she could not wait to give Zachary a sibling. However, in the middle of the night she miscarried. If these trials were not enough, the Cliptons had a long road ahead. In 2004, Joe underwent a kidney transplant from his brother, Jason who was found to be a match. A year later, Joe and Amy had a beautiful boy named Matthew.  The Cliptson's thought their medical journey was over, but they soon found out four years later, the nightmare was not over.  

Joe required another kidney transplant, but this time no matches were found. Amy was devastated when she was not a match and soon this began the road of dialysis and marriage turmoil. Through this entire season, God was preparing both Amy and Joe for his plan. Amy landed a publishing deal with Zondervan, which led her to the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series and Joe was going to get another kidney, which is extremely rare, something only God could orchestrate. Amy needed to give one of her kidneys, so Joe could receive a kidney.  Nyeisha received Amy's kidney, which saved her life and Nyeshia's husband, Eric, saved Joe's life. In simpler terms, she saved the wife of her husband's donor. I had never heard of this kind of exchange before with a kidney transplant, but I guess this can and does happen. 

                                        Click the Youtube Video to hear from Joe & Amy

The story doesn't end here with a transplant, but the Clipston's show what it means to go through seasons of loss, pain, faith, and believing that hope prevails when it appears as though everything is lost. Their marriage and family show what happens when you hit rock bottom during difficult storms. If you look to God, he will pick you up, despite adversity or even when it seems impossible. If you're looking for an inspirational read, or maybe you're in a difficult storm yourself, I recommend picking up "The Gift of Love: One Woman's Journey to Save a Life." You'll laugh and cry with the Cliptson's, as you find parts of your own journey scattered throughout their story. This book is a beautiful reminder that no matter how hard life gets, you always fight and never give up. 

Photo Credit: Here
Image result for The GIFT OF LIFE, ONE WOMAN'S JOURNEY TO SAVE A LIFE AMY CLIPSTONIf you would like to learn more about Amy, please visit her website. She is a very gifted that author that has expanded her writing beyond this beautiful memoir, but is now know for writing two wonderful Amish series including the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series and the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel Series. She has written several novella's and has just recently released her newest title "The Forgotten Recipe." 

To connect with Amy, please visit her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to her email newsletter with book news or giveaways, sign up here.

Amy is currently running a photo contest via Facebook and you can vote for my picture at least once a day! Vote for me here!   If you would like more information, check out the contest here. Happy reading and & good luck! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Skip the lines, I want tradition

 I'm a huge believer in celebrating Thanksgiving with your family, friends or whomever you deem family. Family does not need to be blood, it's the people who you call "your people", the people you do life with through the good and bad. Thanksgiving is a special day that comes only once a year. It should be with the people that you care about. Thanksgiving is about a tradition that started a long time ago with a bunch of people who were crazy enough to believe in something. 

The nonsense of shopping on Thanksgiving Day really is a bunch of craziness to me. When I think of the history behind Thanksgiving and why we celebrate, I think our society has gone off kilter. Since when did the Pilgrims go shopping on Thanksgiving night? Oh, wait they didn't.  They were grateful to discover the New World on the Mayflower and be accompanied by the Native Americans. The Pilgrims first celebrated their first Thanksgiving in the New World in 1621. The original intention behind the day of Thanksgiving was for it to be a day of "Thanksgiving and prayer" ,which our American culture has managed to turn into a profit.

When we teach our children the history of Thanksgiving, I'm betting none of us mention the HYPE of the Thanksgiving day bargains.  Am I wrong? Somehow I think we've got this all backwards. Sales associates, managers and employees leave their children, parents, grandparents, etc for the almighty corporate dollar of supply and demand. Americans engage in this behavior. We don't refuse to participate in the corporate lie that more is better. We buy the lie that we are saving money by leaving our families to go wait in lines for a "good deal." You save money when you don't spend it. You save time when you're with your family. Skip the lines, don't shop on Thanksgiving.Do a favor for those who have to work Thanksgiving and stay HOME! No item is worth leaving your family to purchase and if they are, I would ask you to consider why you're buying a gift. 

As we start to enter the season of Advent, skip the malls, lines and remember what Christmas means to you and your family. Is it about presents, long lines and frustration? Or do you have amazing traditions that you look forward to celebrating at Christmas? When you look back 20 years, will you remember the gifts someone bought you or the traditions you created, the time you spent with your loved ones and the memories you made?

What new traditions are you looking to start this year with your family? Are you a Thanksgiving Day shopper? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Heart Full of Perspective

It is with a full and grateful heart that I write today's post. First, I want to thank you for the overwhelming response of love from Monday's and Wednesday's post. Y'all have been very kind. I have received emails, Facebook Messages, texts, etc from people who really understand the journey. I can't thank you enough for your kind words, support, and love.

For Thanksgiving this year, I want to talk about perspective. My usual post for Thanksgiving is something where I talk about the things I am grateful for, but this year I have a different attitude and approach about life. 


Every human views the world a certain way.

We have our own lens.

It shapes our personality, thoughts, actions, beliefs and choices.

Perspective is altered when life is shattered, adjusted or refined.

Over the past year, my perspective on life has certainly changed. As I think back about the things that I would normally be writing about and the ways that I am thankful, I instead think about every single day. Every day is composed of 24 hours. You don't get more than 24 hours in a day. I would love more than 24 hours, but that isn't possible. 

I'm learning the way you spend your 24 hours every day is the way you spend your days, which is the way you spend your weeks, which is the way you spend your months, which is the way you spend your years and which is ultimately the way you spend your LIFE. Remember the word PERSPECTIVE? It's been really messing me up lately. Why? Because when I think of a heart that is filled with gratitude, my heart is full of perspective. 

The things that once mattered, don't anymore. The things that do, the world does not place value on. I place value on relationships with people and my relationship with Jesus. PERIOD. END of story.  It's interesting how our culture places value on things that will perish one day. I don't think it's wrong to enjoy this life here and now, but it's so easy to get caught up in this life, that we forget what is waiting for us. We can get so tangled in it, that we almost forget people on the other side of the world do not enjoy the daily freedoms we do and ultimately lose their lives fighting to live. 

I think of friends who have children battling cancer. I think of people losing their lives for freedom to express their faith. My heart sinks for the elderly woman who sits alone because her children have resented her for past mistakes or the orphan child who sits without a home. PEOPLE matter. Everyone gets a second chance. A third or a fourth. A do-over. People's stories become our stories. They can be engrafted back into a Kingdom, with a God who does do-overs. Over the past year, I have had the privilege and opportunity to watch grace be extended, to see others extend kindness, witness medical miracles and see how broken lives are restored. It's amazing to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  My husband and I are watching as God en-grafts people back into his family that were once broken, distant, angry and hopeless. He takes all the messy shattered pieces of glass from their lives and makes them beautiful. He takes the pieces and makes them whole. He's not just doing it with the people we have the privilege of serving, loving and being part of a community with, He's doing it with us. He's taking our brokenness and trading it for something beautiful. Sorry, you can't pick that up on sale at Target during a Black Friday special. It just won't happen. These things can't be purchased.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. If we can't get our days right, then at the end of our lives, we might be disappointed with how we spent them. I certainly do not want to have any regrets. Do you? As you consider Thanksgiving and the people around you, consider perspective and what truly matters.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for perspective and the way it has allowed me to grow in all areas of my life. I am thankful for the stories that have become part of my story and the way that I have watched messy shattered broken pieces of glass become beautiful pieces of art. I can't wait to see the stories and what happens this time next Thanksgiving! 

Happy Thanksgiving!



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stop Asking!

   Remembered we discussed faithfulness and hard on Monday, it's about to get real! The person on this side of the screen typing is real a person, with real and raw emotions. Our season of HARD is painful, emotional, frustrating and ironically has moments of solid peace.   

Stop asking the question, "So, when are you going to start a family?" 

"Do you have children?"

"Your biological clock is ticking." 

"No little ones yet?"

   After five years of marriage, you can only begin to imagine the insensitive comments and questions we have had asked and said to us about when we'll have children. For a while, it was okay, but then it got downright old, and I secretly wished I could go into hiding. You can only put off people for so long. I had a lot of excuses in the beginning, so it was rather easy, but now I can't put people off because if you've been married for five years, you should have popped out at least one kid by now. I've failed West Michigan and am a disgrace apparently. {Enter sarcasm or deep pain here}

    In conversations with other couples, these questions are always asked by others with children, and I can't help but feel awkward for them. You can see a childless couple with tension in their fake smiles or annoyed glances at one another; it is so awkward. Who wants to be a part of that? I certainly hate it and end up staring at the ground or giving sympathetic looks to the poor couple being scrutinized for not having a child on demand. Who honestly thinks this is acceptable to ask anyways? I just need to know.. 

Let me remind people, for some of us; this is a very painful answer, one we wish never to answer. Why? Grab your coffee mug, let's chat! 

Did you forget kids were around in the world? 

It's not like you wake up one morning and say "Honey, let's forget to have children." For people like Drew and I, we don't simply go around the world forgetting kids and babies are everywhere. Um, we love kids. That's why we borrow others. Couples without kids have their reasons. Some couples aren't ready for kids. This could be due to many issues- financial, emotional, unsteady living arrangements. One spouse might be ready while another spouse isn't ready. A couple doesn't have health care that can afford the cost of having a child. Do you know how expensive it is to have a birth? A couple has miscarried and hasn't talked with anyone or with one another. You asking reminds them of a loss, which is already difficult enough. Maybe it's a health struggle, and they aren't able to conceive, or it would put both the mother and future child at risk. You aren't previewed to "No little ones yet?" You don't know the reasons, you don't live with the couple, so it's probably better if you keep your thoughts and questions to yourself. 

Asking questions about when someone is going to start a family is just down right rude. 

It would be like me asking you how much money you make and what kind of money you have in your savings account? Wouldn't you find it distasteful if I started asking questions about how you spend your money, how much is in your savings account and why you shop so much, yet you can't pay your bills? It's almost a bit judgmental. My comments may sound harsh, but I think my point is valid. We live in the world where everyone gets to have an opinion, and this is not a place where others get to have an opinion. When asking this question, you're just making me want to honestly ask how much is in your savings account!! If you want to ask about what my ovaries are doing, I want to ask about what your finances are doing? We probably won't be friends at the end of that conversation, and I can almost guarantee you won't like my answers.

Some people have goals.
There is nothing wrong with waiting to have a child until you are ready. Every couple is completely different. Some couples have goals they want to achieve before bringing children into this world, which is entirely fine and acceptable. Many couples have personal goals, financial goals, travel goals, etc. There is nothing wrong with waiting to have children to achieve goals. Many couples feel pressured by others and society to have children. They later wished they would have spent the time doing thing earlier on in their marriage before having children. Wait until you are ready. Tell all the people asking questions to have another kid. 

Choose an alternative route.
Our culture has placed high expectations on women to have "their own" children without ever really giving them the chance to consider maybe they have been called to something different such as foster care or adoption. Every couple is different in terms of creating a family. Not one way is better, but each way can be the best for that family. Parenthood should be respected, cheer-leaded and honored no matter what road a couple chooses regardless of anyone's opinion because you don't have all the answers. Every couple has a different road, we were created different, so it's okay if our journeys aren't the same. 

Why you don't ask the whys? 
You don't ask the why's because on any given day; you could get a person like me crying. No, Drew and I  didn't forget to have kids! Yes, we want them! After five years, I'm pretty sure we have this figured out. At this point, life has thrown us some medical challenges that have deemed it not safe. Am I allowed to have moments where I lose it? Yes. Are there other moments where I am okay and completely am at peace? Completely. I know we will have kids at some point, in some way. My God is faithful and big. Until then, do us all a favor and stop asking the WHY'S! It's painful, and it shames us for something we have no control over. It makes us feel like we are less than. For those who struggle with infertility, for those who choose to wait, for those who medically cannot conceive or for those who have decided it is not right for them, please STOP ASKING!

Can we not tiptoe around the subject either? You won't offend me if you want to talk about babies. However, I may excuse myself from a conversation if it's too much. I can usually handle it, and if I can't for that day, I'll say it. I have my own boundaries. I'm pretty good at exerting my feelings {Clearly}  Shopping for clothes and gifts are a no and going to a baby shower, well forget it! I have grace for certain moments, but yes, I openly talk about it. Do I struggle with other aspects of it? Yes, I'm human. Give me grace. I'm getting there. It's not an elephant in the room like it used to be. Healing is happening, and the stain is slowing becoming clean. It takes time. Just don't question me about when and if we're going to have a child. If I knew the answer, it would have been a while ago. Deal? 

*SIDE NOTE: Kids, don't have the understanding about not to ask. Please note, I am not personally offended. As a child, I thought every woman could and was a "mom." The littles don't know any better. I won't take it personally if your littles ask why we don't have kids. **

Regular blogging will return to normal programming next week. This week, we have to deal with some icky real life. Thanks! 

The Word of the Promise New Testament Audio CD

Hear the Bible Come Alive in Dramatic Audio Theater™!
This multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. This world-class production creates a dramatic audio theater experience that makes you feel like you’re really there with Jesus and His disciples. Listen in your car, on your MP3 player, or with your family or small group to gain a new perspective of the Bible.
The Word of Promise® New Testament Audio Bible is a 20-CD set and includes a bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” DVD.
Cast Includes:
  • Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà vu) - Jesus
  • Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, The Goodbye Girl) - Quotes from Moses
  • Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want) - Mary Magdalene
  • Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach (Prison Break, Hemingway) - Paul
  • Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots) - John
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride) - Mary, Mother of Jesus
  • And many others
My Review:

Packed in a 20 cd Collection that features many popular actresses and actors including Richard Dreyfuss, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Louis Gossett Jr, Stacy Keach and many more The Word of Promise New Testament Audio in NKJV format is well done with dramatic audio theatre. This cd collection makes the Bible come to life in an audio format that I have not heard before. Generally speaking, you can listen to the Bible via the You Version App, but is isn't quite as exciting as this theatrical audio, which helps you remember the stories, the verse and the word become flesh. 

I love how compact the cd set is and how nicely I can stick it into my car, which allows me to listen to the Bible while I travel from place to place. The plastic case is a bit small for 20 cds, so I think it needs something more durable, but overall it is a great set. I have been wanting an audio set for a long time. My only beef is that this is the New Testament and does not include the Old Testament. I would like to hear that the Old Testament done in this same format.  I have not listened to all 20 cds, but the cds I have listened to so far, I have really enjoyed!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to review this awesome audio cd set! I was not paid for this review, but was only given the product for review!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Muscle of Faithfulness


In our culture, staying committed to something is like a bad crash diet. We sign up for something and can usually commit to it for about two months before we see signs of slow regression, wavering moments of diverting from the plan, slowly going back to our old habits or finally bagging the idea all together before we end up in the exact same situation we were before. Maybe it's working on your marriage, trying to lose weight, a financial plan, sticking and training to a race plan, saying "yes" and following through, or walking through a difficult road with someone. I'm not sure what area causes you to struggle to walk out and complete faithfulness in your life...  

{Do I have experience in this area?}

 Of course, I've had some major commitment issues.

{ I am human too}

However, over several years, several races, many good friendships, bad friendships, moments of deep sorrow/ pain, and heartfelt joy, faithfulness is no longer a fad diet for me. 

{It is something that requires much muscle}

Our season of life has been one of deep anguish, the kind that you wish for no one to ever go through.

{This season of life, is the kind that you're on your knees for everything and even sometimes you can barely mustard that}

 It's okay if you don't believe in God. It's hard to believe in something you can't see. I totally understand. Maybe you've had a bad experience with a person like me, I've had them too or maybe I've turned you away, I apologize. It's never been my intention and I apologize for people who represent my faith who been a mis-representation, we aren't perfect. I've never claimed it. I'm trying to be just honest here. My husband and I, have been on a road that has been hard. It's tested everything in me. It's been long, very long, too long and I wonder when we can breathe? I feel like we start drowning, we come up for air and then we are back down again.

{This season has required deep faith that surpasses all understanding}

Someday's I'll be sitting in my head (like you can literally sit there in your head) and tears stream down my face. Words are not needed. Other times I can't express my feelings and I get frustrated. I wonder is this not even the beginning of the battle. Is there more? Is this thing about to get harder? Am I ready for more? Do you have days jump at you more than you can handle? This happens to me. All of a sudden the days jump at me faster than they need to.  

{Faithfulness only requires me and you to take it a moment at a time, day by day}

Maybe you're trying to eat healthier for health purposes. You might find yourself fighting to train harder for a race to improve your time or maybe  trying to stick to a budget so you don't over spend for Christmas. Whatever thing you're trying to stay firm on to be faithful, don't give up. The fight isn't over until you finish strong. 

{Faithfulness is small acts that lead to the large habits of staying firm until you've developed the muscle}

Some days I don't feel like exercising the discipline muscle of faithfulness. I want to cheat. It's like having a Gluten Free Diet. The moment I cheat or eat something that isn't Gluten Free, I pay for it in the gut. It requires much discipline and the small habits of staying consistent in gluten free eating pay off in the long run, otherwise my stomach hates me.  Running is the same way for my body. Epilepsy medication really screws me up, so I need to exercise faithfulness in staying active even when I don't want to do so. 

In my season of HARD, I am trying to be faithful. I understand when it seems like you're drowning and you're barely breathing.

 {Stay firm in the things that keep you grounded

It's been my experience that the small things lead to developing  daily large muscle of faithfulness.

 Whether you're training for a race my friends, reading books, seeing friends and family or going through a hard season, don't give in the temptation of our culture for the "fad diet", but stick it in for the long haul because it is worth the reward. 

What is your hard? Your long road season that causes your faithfulness to waver? You don't have to answer to question. You can simply grunt in the comment section. I love to know I'm not alone here. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How are you running your race?

It's Tuesday and chilly here!! Brrr... I'm not ready for this change. It's like life. Life has changed a lot in the past six months. Some changes have been great, others have been down right devastating. The devestating moments have made me cling to my faith more. Someday this world will fade away. 

I was looking at my race medals the other day thinking someday when I pass, no one will care about my times, the races I ran or the medals I earned, they will put them in a box and give them to goodwill. Isn't that what our life sums up to? A box of treasured junk? I decided with the changes of my life, I couldn't just be a collector of things. Our life can't be all about accumulating "stuff" because it doesn't travel with us. My husband often says I have "piles" that I need to pick up. I am a "piler" and it has gotten better with time, but where does all this stuff come from? I don't want stuff! The average person around the globe lives on less than a $1 a day. If they are content and happy, so can I. 



The problem is we are all trying to run each other's races. We look to the left and we look to the right because we look to see what the other runners are running  rather than looking at our own race! What is their distance? PR? Ect. In other terms, how big of a home do you have? What kind of a car? Facebook is real life, right? 

I'm not collecting a bunch of "junk" along  lives way and I'm tired of hearing about others races, it's time to keep my eyes fixed on my own race. At the end of my life, nothing goes with me. So, with that said, I will totally cheerlead you on in your race of life, but I'm not playing the comparison game about which problem is bigger, how much money you have, or what kind of car your drive. I will encourage the snot out of your race! Go big or go home ya'll! I will give my time, talents and possessions to help you run your race! 

In the end, only my race matters. In the end, only your race matters to you. 

How will you choose to run your race? Will you choose it to uplift others? Will you encourage them to do it well or will you put them down? How will you use your talents and possessions to help others run their race well? 

You only get one race!

Two Book Reviews in 1

I have a great line up of two books that have been released that would make great Christmas gifts for the perfect reader in your family! Don't miss out on these titles! 

The first title is called  Angel in Aisle 3- 

25111033In the tradition of An Invisible Thread and Same Kind of Different as Me,Angel in Aisle 3 is the heartwarming true story of an unlikely friendship that began with a chance meeting in a grocery store between a bank executive bound for prison and an elderly stranger.

When Kevin West resigned from his job as vice president of a bank in 1998 after making fraudulent loans, he spent the time before his trial managing a family-owned, small grocery store in Ironton, Ohio. Dealing with serious marriage problems and with a prison sentence almost certainly in his future, Kevin was overcome with remorse and without a scrap of hope. It was at his lowest moment that Kevin called out to a power beyond himself for help, and God answered his prayer in the form of an elderly vagrant in a soiled shirt and tattered pants named Don.

When Don saw Kevin’s open Bible on the counter next to the register, the untidy, long-haired indigent took the opportunity to share Bible wisdom and life-giving truths that changed Kevin’s life. Finding a sense of peace in their conversation, Kevin offered Don a few basic groceries and an invitation to continue their conversation the next day. What began as a chance meeting between two individuals whose lives seemed headed for certain ruin, turns into an unlikely bond of friendship that saved them both.

My Review:
This book is beautiful. I have never read a book quite like this. Can you imagine going from being the vice president of a bank to then sitting in prison? This was the life Kevin was leading. Don, living on the streets showed up to his corner store asking "Are you getting anything good out of that book?" Don was referring to the Bible on Kevin's counter. Of course, Kevin replied "it's all good." This began the beginning of many conversations. Kevin gave Don groceries and sent him on his way. Don and him continued to have many more conversations where he instilled biblical wisdom and helped Kevin through very difficult moments including when Kevin was facing difficult circumstances like losing everything including their house. Don showed up, prayed with Kevin and continued to encourage him. This relationship continued, which eventually led Kevin to becoming the "Teacher." If you want to know what this means, you'll need to read the book.  

This is one of those books you can't put down because it is so good. From start to finish I was glued. I loved this book and I highly recommend it. It will definitely make you think that their is a higher purpose for your life. 

The Second book that I have to tell you about is called Sky Lantern! Don't miss this title either!
Matt Mikalatos offers a poignant and compassionate look at a father’s relationship with his children, the healing power of a small act of kindness, and the certainty that even death can’t stop love in a deeply moving memoir inspired by a sky lantern with a scribbled note and the journey to find the child who wrote it.

Love you, Daddy. Miss you so much. Steph.

Steph scribbled those words on a sky lantern before sending it off to her father in heaven who had passed away from cancer. Halfway across the country, Steph’s lantern landed in Matt Mikalatos’s yard.

As a father of three daughters, Matt could not let Steph’s note go unanswered, so he posted an open letter to her on his blog. Matt never could have expected the viral response to his letter that led him on a journey to find Steph—and to bring healing to thousands of others in desperate need of the loving words of a father.

My Review:
One morning Matt found a broken lantern that said "Love you, Dad. Miss you so much. Steph." Matt thought about this beautiful and yet simplistic message. He wondered about how he should handle the situation, but felt he should write back to "Steph", so he wrote a beautiful letter telling her very kind words, the kind of person her dad thought she was and how much he loved her back. He didn't know where she was, so he put the letter on the internet, which caused it to go viral. He started receiving messages. Eventually, it led its way to "Steph." Eventually, the two meet in person and she talks to Matt about how the letter changed her life. The lantern led to a beautiful friendship between Matt and Steph. This book is a great reminder that we can show great love with small gestures. Don't miss out on this beautiful book. It will remind you about what it means to be human and the beauty of the human spirit! 

Thank you to Howard Press for allowing me to review both of these amazing books. I was not compensated for a positive review. I give both of these books 5 star reviews.